Published on June 9th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro


Tesla Patents To Be Shared?

June 9th, 2014 by  

Editor’s Note: During Tesla’s 2014 annual shareholder meeting last week, Elon Musk seemed like he was on the verge of spilling the beans about something “controversial” he was planning to do with Tesla patents. He held his tongue and said he’s prefer to take his time and carefully write it up. I’m certainly on the edge of my seat. Here’s some speculation and commentary from Chris:

Elon Musk May Do Something “Controversial” With Tesla Patents (via Gas 2.0)

Elon Musk could do something “controversial” with patents filed by Tesla Motors, and that something could be releasing them for free to the world. It’s a bold move that could help spur a new wave of electric vehicle innovation by the world’s…

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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • Pieter Siegers

    He must have been preparing for some new challenge is my guess, whether that is EV in general or energy storage or energy efficiency or transport related, in a similar way Nikola Tesla was already moving to the next step in his times. We’ll know soon enough.

  • Glen Bartholomew

    The Supercharger makes the most sense, especially if it leads to standardization of the chargers. This would help the overall EV industry’s entry into the mainstream. This is also in keeping with the way Tesla has already grown it network of Superchargers stations.

    Releasing the battery system could also help to bring widespread acceptance of the Supercharger systems, since presumably they work best when charged by Tesla’s Supercharging Stations. Although this option can be a little more tricky to manage.

  • hank33

    I think they are going to Share patents because of Tesla wanting to Invest in selling cars in China and they will have to share tech there to get cars made there.They figure give away the tech now or have it stolen later when investing in a Nation (China) known for reverse engineering everything and making their own cheaper copies .

  • Lars

    Elon’s objective with Tesla is to catalyze a more rapid adoption of EV’s, in an effort to promote a more sustainable mode of transportation for our global society. Their objective is not necessarily to dominate the market, but to further the market as a whole. At least that is what he stated in a video that I watched recently online (I think Stanford’s MBA program was honoring him with an award). Therefore, it would make perfect sense for him to open up the patents in an effort to promote wider adoption of EV technologies, and more importantly allow others to leapfrog off of the advances that Tesla has already made.

  • JamesWimberley

    “Among the patents Tesla holds is for a multi-port Supercharger station…” So it’s an original idea to have a charging station with different cables and plugs? I knew the the US Patent Office has just about abandoned the test of non-obviousness, but this takes some beating. It sounds to me as if Musk is just clearing the attic.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Companies sometimes have to patent the obvious out of self-protection. If they don’t then someone else may and force the company to pay to use “the obvious”.

      • Matthew

        No, any release of any design into the public domain is the best protection. It’s prior art, and even cheaper to use to defeat some competitor trying to patent it or to stop the originator from doing it.

        “Defensive patents” are a scam to whitewash intellectual property grabs. Patents are always useful only to stop others from implementing the protected invention.

    • Matthew

      It’s not so obvious if the multi version is implemented in a substantially different method than the single version. The “different cables and plugs” are probably pretty different, since throughput is the main challenge in even a single charger.

      But it is also possible that the PTO allowed an obvious variant of an existing patent. The PTO is a joke. It exists to create exclusive property out of lawyer’s time.

  • vadik

    Can’t imagine his patents are worth anything as the key battery technology is owned by Panasonic

    • Bob_Wallace

      How about the honeycomb structures in the doors that absorb energy in crashes? Something that came out of the SpaceX program.

      I think Elon has made enough money to satisfy himself. Now he wants to accomplish other things. Just like Bill Gates taken on eliminating diseases it seems that Elon wants to do something significant about climate change and making EVs viable faster than they would have been had things been left to run their course.

      Tesla is likely to stay at the forefront in EV design simply because it is so focused. Tesla has no chore expect to build the very best EVs possible. And that’s going to attract the very best people in the field, the people who want to push the process as far and as fast as possible. The company CEO is not distracted by the ICE wing of the business, the car loan wing, the heavy truck wing, etc. Tesla is like a special forces unit. The can afford to let others copy them because they intend to stay a step or two ahead. And the larger goal is not to become the world’s largest car manufacturer.

      • vadik

        I can only applaud Elon for what he is doing promoting BEVs, I hope it all works and BEVs dominate the transportation market.

        • Bob_Wallace

          It’s hard to see how BEVs won’t. It’s simply the cost of batteries at this point.

          Tesla has demonstrated that a 200+ range is possible without making the car a slug or the kWh/mile expensive. I think the S uses about 0.34/mile (I see numbers from 0.32 to 0.38) and the Nissan Leaf is probably around 0.32/mile. (I see numbers from 0.28 to 0.34)

          The difference between 0.34 and 0.32 with 12cent/kWh electricity is 0.3cents/mile. $31 per year for a 13,000 annual mile driver. I.e., nothing.

          Weight seems not to be an issue. Space seems not to be an issue with Tesla’s design. It’s all cost.

          • Omega Centauri

            How much usable cargo space in a Tesla? Other plug in makers find a tradeoff between battery capacity and storage space.

          • Bob_Wallace

            A bunch

            – Rear cargo volume seats up 26.3 cu ft
            – Seat down 58.1 cu ft
            – Front trunk cargo volume: 5.3 cu ft

            So 31.8 to 63.4 cu ft.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Just to throw in a comparison, the Chevy Malibu has 16.3 cu ft of cargo space.

      • Omega Centauri

        It is a public company, i.e. much of the capital is owned by stockholders. They might not be willing to give away patents for free. Maybe he is planning something less dramatic, for decades the computer industry worked off a “gentleman’s agreement”, “You can violate my patents, and I can violate yours”. But, this only works because it lets both sides save money.

        The difficulty with such a scheme, is that vulture capitalists can buy bankrupt firms in order to extract rents from their portfolio of patents.

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